Public transport and hotels in Ireland are neglecting wheelchair users through their lack of accessibility, a Clare man has said.
On Saturday last, Shane King completed a 32km cycle on his motomed at The Galleon Inn. The 38 year old has lived with cerebral palsy since the third week he was born. “I would say some places have improved but some places could do with improving,” he remarked of wheelchair accessibility in Kilrush.
“When we came back here 15 years ago there were three steps into the post office, no bank, Shane couldn’t access any public building so he got onto a local TD and councillors,” his mother Mary recalled. Shane takes up the story, “I got onto a TD and a councillor and I was trying to go in for my benefit one Friday so I rang up the TD and told the councillor ‘there’s three steps inside the post office and I can’t go in and get the disability benefit on a Friday’ so they came down and I asked them to change it because it wasn’t right that people with disabilities and the elderly cannot access it. I was trying to highlight the problem, the post office got a ramp and so did the two banks, it started then.
Although the Government may provide free travel for Shane and personnel in similar circumstances, the service can sometimes be a source of immense frustration for the man known as the King of Cappa. “What really gets me, about 8 years ago I was going to Galway on the train, I was handing over my pass at the station and the woman said ‘have you phoned’ and I said ‘no’, she told me I was supposed to phone and give four days notice, why was it that I had to phone and couldn’t just get the train when I feel like it, the same with the public bus. I think a person with a disability should be able to use the public bus or train anytime they want besides having to ring and give four days notice. I only got stuck in traffic that day that’s why I missed the train I was originally due to travel on”.
Mary added, “Clare Bus are wheelchair accessible but the national bus is not. We went to New York one time and every public bus had wheelchair access, after the banks and the post office the Council came and they lowered all the level crossings and they were all level with the ground for wheelchair users”. She acknowledged that Kilrush is much more wheelchair friendly in 2019 than it was in 2004.
“I’d like to be able to travel here, there and anywhere myself but it’s not always possible. Able bodied people going into wheelchair spaces is unreal and the traffic warden not even stopping it,” the Cappa man highlighted to The Clare Echo.
Being confined to a wheelchair has resulted in every trip having to be meticulously organised and as Mary outlined staying in hotels can be a difficult experience. “If we’re going in an unexpected place to a hotel or anything, Shane would always ring up first and ask is there access. In most places there is but there is the odd place that we have a bit of difficulty. Hotel rooms with wheelchair facilities needs to be looked into, most disabled families can’t go anywhere, Shane has severe cerebral palsy but he has had physio since he was very little, he can stand weight bearing or sit in the car but a lot of disabled people cannot stand, those poor people if there is a family wedding the disabled person has to stay at home because there is no lifting mechanism in the toilets, how do those people shower or get out of the wheelchair, there is no lifting mechanism whatsoever in any hotel”.
She continued, “A lot of disabled people cannot stand, they have to be hoisted in and out of bed. In one hotel, the bed was so high that I had to knock Shane over and drag him into the bed, it was above his bottom, there is no consideration. People are not informed, people who have nothing to do with disabled people wouldn’t even think of it, there are parents of families who have to put the disabled person into respite care if they are going to a wedding and this poor person socially can’t go anywhere”.
“When they are building these hotels or when the planning is gone in, why aren’t they coming to the likes of me or other people like me and asking us what’s needed in the hotel, this is the thing that gets me. I’ve been to several hotels and some of the bathrooms have been absolutely chronic,” Shane added.